Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Battle Hymn of the Republic

By Pastor Anton Bosch


In order to understand the meaning of any hymn, poem or piece of prose, one needs to look at the circumstances surrounding the writing of that work and the mindset of the author. One of the most famous hymns is Amazing Grace. The words of that hymn are very powerful, and, become more so when one understands the circumstances that led Newton to write those words. Newton’s life, conversion and theology not only validate the hymn but add immensely to its meaning and value.

Another hymn that has been popular ever since it’s creation in 1861, and is gaining popularity in the current political climate of the USA, is the Battle Hymn of the Republic. It is important to examine the circumstances under which this hymn was written, the meaning of the words, and the religious views of the author of this hymn in order to assess the value and validity of this hymn.

Personal Note

As a South African with a keen interest in music, I have often been exposed to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. I know most of the words and can hum the tune. But I have always seen it as a patriotic song which had little to do with Christianity, somewhat similar to South Africa’s National Anthem: Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika – God bless Africa. Songs like this seemed to me to be long on sentiment and nationalism but very short on true Christianity, and certainly are not the type to be sung in Christian churches.

Well, imagine my shock when I came to America and found that the Battle Hymn was not only in our hymn book, but folks insisted on singing it as part of the worship! More than that, some would vigorously defend their right to sing it and would leave the church when denied that right.

Those experiences forced me to examine the hymn, its meaning and history, more closely. It is these conclusions I share with you in this article. I trust that my position as a pastor who is an outsider to American history and politics gives me some advantage of objectivity and neutrality.

John Brown's Body

The build-up to the American Civil War took several years. One of the men who had much to do with fomenting the Civil War was an abolitionist by the name of John Brown. In 1856, Brown led what would be known as the Pottawatomie Massacre in which he and his followers killed five pro-slavery southerners. Later, in 1859, he led an attack on a federal armory in order to secure arms which would be used to arm slaves in a rebellion. The attack failed, but seven more people were killed and several wounded. Brown was captured, found guilty of treason and hung. Opinions of Brown then and today are deeply divided, ranging from a hero to the father of American terrorism.

At about the time of the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Union (Northern) soldiers began to sing a marching song known as John Brown’s Body or The John Brown Song. The chorus was the same as the chorus of the Battle Hymn except for the last line, which reads “his soul is marching on” instead of “His truth is marching on.” The source of the words of the John Brown song are in dispute. The tune seems to have been a popular folk tune which was often used in camp meetings as a hold-all for many different words. Most of the lines of the chorus (“Glory, glory, hallelujah”) and the melody seemed to remain constant while the rest of the words changed. The John Brown Song would soon become the foundation for the Battle Hymn.

Mrs. Julia Ward Howe

While the origins of the tune are obscure, and the author(s) of the words to John Brown’s Body are in dispute, there is no uncertainty or dispute surrounding the authorship of the Battle Hymn. The words to the hymn were written by Mrs. Julia Ward Howe to the tune of John Brown’s Body.

During the 1860s Mrs. Howe and her husband, Dr. Howe, a physician, lived in Massachusetts. Both were abolitionists and social activists. They rubbed shoulders with many of the influential people of the time and had visited Lincoln in the White House. The Howe's hosted John Brown in their home and funded his activities. Dr. Howe and one of their pastors, Theodore Parker, were members of the “Secret Six” who funded Brown’s activities (more about Parker below). At the time of Brown’s arrest, Dr. Howe fled to Canada to escape prosecution, but later returned to become a member of the Sanitary Commission during the Civil War. Dr. Howe’s work for the Union Army brought Mrs. Howe into personal contact with the Northern (Union) Army. This helped to shape the words of the Hymn.

The writing of the song

During a visit to the troops, Mrs. Howe was accompanied by, amongst others, her pastor, Mr. James Freeman Clarke, and his wife. Upon hearing the troops sing “John Brown’s body lies a-moldering in the grave,” Clarke suggested to Howe that she should write new words to the tune. She replied that she had often wanted to, but had not found the right words. However, soon after, Mrs. Howe woke during the night with all the words in her mind. She arose and wrote them down in one sitting. (Except for a few refinements and the deletion of the last verse, the song remains substantially unchanged today.)

Mrs. Howe said that she went back to sleep “but not without feeling that something important had happened to me.”[ii] The following morning she could not remember any of the words, but they had been scribbled on a piece of Sanitary Commission notepaper. Howe’s daughter noted that “the student of her life will note a number of sudden inspirations, or visions, as we may call them.”[iii] Both Howe and her daughter therefore suggested that the words came to her by some supernatural means, as she had in vain tried to write the words before, but this time they came by a flash of inspiration or vision. The source of this inspiration needs to be examined in the light of Howe’s religious beliefs.

“In her Recollections of the Anti-Slavery Struggle she ascribes its composition to two causes – the religion of humanity and the passion of patriotism.”[iv] Thus by her own confession, the song was not a “spiritual” one rooted in Christianity, but rather it was rooted in the “religion of humanity.”

What motivated the writing of the song?

As pointed out above, Dr. and Mrs. Howe were fiercely opposed to slavery and even funded militant abolitionists before the Civil War. They were therefore very much in support of the war, and even though Dr. Howe was too old to enlist he did what he could to support the war effort by serving on the Sanitary Commission.

Mrs. Howe lamented the fact that she could not make a greater contribution towards the war effort. In her own words:

“I distinctly remember that a feeling of discouragement came over me as I drew near the city of Washington at the time already mentioned. I thought of the women of my acquaintance whose sons or husbands were fighting our great battle; the women themselves serving in the hospitals, or busying themselves with the work of the Sanitary Commission. My husband, as already said, was beyond the age of military service, my eldest son but a stripling; my youngest was a child of not more than two years. I could not leave my nursery to follow the march of our armies, neither had I the practical deftness which the preparing and packing of sanitary stores demanded. Some thing seemed to say to me, 'You would be glad to serve, but you cannot help any one; you have nothing to give, and there is nothing for you to do.' Yet, because of my sincere desire, a word was given me to say, which did strengthen the hearts of those who fought in the field and of those who languished in the prison.” [v]

(The "word" given her "to say" refers to the Battle Hymn).

Mrs. Howe’s religion

We have already met Howe’s pastor at the time of writing the song. He was Mr. Clarke. Not only was he the Howe’s pastor “for many years,” but he and his wife were close friends of the Howe's and often accompanied Mrs. Howe on her visits to the troops.

According to Howe’s daughter, another house friend was Theodore Parker, preacher and reformer. He, too, was more than a friend. Mrs Howe was a member of his church for “some time.”[vi]

During Mrs. Howe’s visits to Washington, she would attend the church of the Rev. William Henry Channing whom she greatly admired.[vii]

Who then were Clarke, Parker and Channing, what denomination did they belong to, and what did these men and Mrs Howe believe? Clarke, Parker and Channing were all Unitarian pastors, and were also all members of the Transcendental Club.[viii] In addition, they were all disciples of Ralph Waldo Emerson.[ix] (Channing was also the chaplain to the United States House of Representatives during 1863 and 1864). Not only were they all Unitarians, but they were on the extreme left of already liberal Unitarianism. It is very clear from Mrs. Howe’s writings, as well as of those close to her, that she had no difference of opinion with these men, and that she admired and followed them, and that her own belief system was shaped by theirs. Since they all shared a common theology which has been well documented, we shall examine them as a group in order to determine Mrs Howe’s religion.

What Howe believed

The following brief summary is a composition of some of the distinctives of 19th Century Unitarianism. Note that the majority of the citations are from a book written by Howe’s close friend, pastor and associate – James Freeman Clarke.
  • Jesus Christ is not God, but just a very good man.[xi]
  • They did not believe that Jesus was born of a virgin.[xii]
  • Since miracles cannot be explained by reason, they are rejected.[xiii]
  • For the same reason, they did not accept that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.[xiv]
  • Christ did not make atonement for our sins on the cross. Salvation is by “character.”[xv] Basically, all are saved, but need to be “improved” through the process of life.
  • They do not believe that Jesus Christ will physically return the second time.[xvi]
  • The Bible is not the infallible, inspired Word of God but is equal to the “Vedas of India, or the Koran, or the Dialogues of Plato, or Wordsworth’s Ode to Immortality.”[xvii]

It becomes exceedingly clear, then, that Mrs. Howe was by no means a Christian in the evangelical or orthodox sense. Her rejection of ALL the essentials of Christian doctrine make her no different than a Hindu, Moslem, or some other religious pagan. She was religious and knew a lot of verses from the Bible, but she was NOT a Christian in any orthodox sense. Not only were Mrs. Howe and her friends not Christians, they were anti-Christ by their rejection of all that Jesus Christ is and did.

This is cardinal to our understanding of the song. It’s “inspiration” therefore cannot be ascribed to the Holy Spirit, nor can its theology be given any credence. We could stop right here and assert that the song should be rejected outright as a worldly song simply on the basis that the author was not a Christian. I am not passing judgment as to whether Christians should sing this song outside of the church – just as they sing the National Anthem or other patriotic songs. That is a matter of personal conscience. But that this song should be banished from Christian worship is patently obvious. Simply because this song has “hymn” in its title does not make it a Christian hymn. This conclusion is reinforced when examining the words of the song.

The Apostle Paul says: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Julia Ward Howe believed and preached another gospel, yet we allow her to continue to preach in our churches through this song. Instead of agreeing with Paul that she is accursed, we call her blessed! May the Lord have mercy on us for such disobedience and flagrant honoring a heretic and anti-Christ.

The Lyrics

Verse 1
“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.”

Howe described with pride how she saw the coming of the Lord in the Union Army in those bleak months of 1861: “When the war broke out, the passion of patriotism lent its color to the religion of humanity in my own mind… and a moment came when I could say: Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”[xviii]

Howe’s view that the Civil War was the coming of the Lord accords with the view held by her pastor, Mr. Clarke, who did not believe that Jesus will return bodily as He ascended (Acts 1:11). Rather he believed that Jesus comes mystically and in many ways. Clarke said:

“Christ also comes in the great events of history, which contribute to the progress of the human race… When Jerusalem was compassed with armies, and terrible bloodshed and awful suffering fell on the nation… that was a coming of Christ. For out of the midst of those horrors, came a new and better day.”

Clarke then continued to explain his belief that the Civil War was also a “coming of the Christ” as it brought about the end of slavery.

In the same year that Howe wrote the Battle Hymn, Rev. William Weston Patton also wrote new words to the John Brown’s Body tune. In his version, Patton confirmed the prevailing view that the Union Army was “Christ.” He further made John Brown out to be John the Baptist!

“John Brown was John the Baptist of the Christ we are to see,
Christ who of the bondmen shall the Liberator be,
And soon thruout the Sunny South the slaves shall all be free,
For his soul is marching on.”[xxi]

This is nothing short of blasphemy – to suggest that the American Civil War, and the Northern Army in particular, is the coming of the Lord! These words should never have passed the lips of any Christian, let alone be sung in any assembly of God’s people.

The rest of the verse continues to misquote Revelation 19:15, which states: “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” The Apostle John here is speaking about Jesus Christ who returns to vanquish His enemies and set up His Kingdom at the end of the age. Once again, it is pure blasphemy to equate a human army on earth with the “King of King and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16).

The last line of the first verse is repeated at the end of the Chorus: “His truth is marching on.” God’s Truth is spread through one way, and one way only: the preaching and teaching of His Word. God’s truth does not march in rank and file. God’s Word is not forced upon others at the end of the sword. God’s truth does not kill brothers, cousins and uncles, as happened in the Civil War.

This song Battle Hymn does not promote God’s truth, but rather promotes murder, hate and violence. Constantine, the Crusaders, the Roman Church, and many others throughout church history all thought they could promote God’s truth by the shedding of blood. And many during the Civil War thought they could do the same. There is simply no sanction for this in the Bible.

Jesus taught us to love our enemies and to turn the other cheek. When pushed to defend Himself He responded: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). This teaching is the opposite of taking up arms against one’s physical and/or spiritual brother, even if the purported purpose is to oppose a grievous error like slavery.

Verse 2
“I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.”

Julia Ward Howe told how she noticed, on her first visit to Washington, D.C., at the outbreak of the war, groups of soldiers at their fires surrounding the Capital.[xxii] They had built a “steel girdle” around Washington because the Confederate (Southern) Army was close.

Once again she equated the Union Army with the Lord (“I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps”). Again, this is extreme blasphemy. God is not manifest in any army, let alone one fighting a civil war! If this were true then we would be going door-to-door forcing people to believe the Gospel at the end of a gun, and calling that “the Lord and His truth marching on.” This can never be!

Howe then changed the metaphor so that the fires of the soldiers become altars through which they worship God! These “altars” are certainly not built to worship the True God. They must therefore be in honor of another deity, a fact which makes this a violation of the first command – “you shall have no other gods before Me.”

The phrase “I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps” speaks of the judgment (sentence) God had supposedly passed on the South, and that He was about to execute that sentence. This also is blasphemous. Taking up arms against one’s brother can never be regarded as “righteous,” and to suggest that the North was “God” executing judgment against the South is nothing less than sacrilege. To suggest that political leaders have a religious authority to pass the death sentence on any part of the nation because they believe differently, even if what they believe is wrong, is the height of arrogance and wickedness.

Verse 3
This verse is not included in many hymn books, yet is part of the song and is vital to an understanding of the meaning of the song.

“I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
‘As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.’”

The “burnished rows of steel” refers to the sun reflecting off the gun barrels and the fixed bayonets of the army.[xxiii] The Gospel is never written in guns and bayonets and the implements of war. The Gospel of salvation is written in the hearts of those who have believed the message of Jesus Christ and been transformed by the power of that Gospel.

“Contemners” is an old English word which means those who treat one with contempt. This line says that to the degree that we kill those who despise God, God will extend grace to us! The Bible never links God’s grace to killing those who disagree with us. This bloody kind of hate-mongering is absolutely not part of the Christian message. In fact, the opposite is true. If we willfully disobey God’s Word by killing those with whom we have disagreements, there is not likely much grace for such willful sin. “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2).

“Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel” is a misquoted reference to Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”[xxiv] Once again, Howe turned the Union Army into “Christ” and the Confederate Army into “Satan.” This is an outright heresy and a total abuse of the Scriptures, which Howe used to support her own political agenda. At the time of the war, there were just as many true Christians in the South as in the North, yet the one reserved the moral high ground to call itself “Christ” and the other “Satan.” This is not remotely Christian. It is just plain worldly and a pagan way of thinking.

Verse 4
“He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.”

The trumpet probably refers to the references in Revelation to the trumpet. The army used bugles to either sound the “retreat” or the “charge,” and Howe seemed to use poetic license to make this connection. The Last Trumpet heralds the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”[xxv] Once again, Howe replaced “Christ” with the Army.

Sifting out the hearts of men can only mean that they judge the motives of men’s hearts. Thus Howe once again deified the Army and, worse, gives to the military the divine task of judging men’s motives and condemning them to death if they don’t pass the test (sifting). How blasphemous! God alone is the judge and He has committed all judgment to His Son (John 5:22). Paul is very clear on our not judging men’s hearts: Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts” (1Corinthians 4:5). But this does not present a problem to Howe since she believed that the Army is Christ!

Verse 5
“In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.”

“In the beauty of the lilies…” is sweet sentimentality that is void of any doctrinal support, but helps to make this bloody promotion of “truth” by killing your brother sound very nice. Jesus was not born in the beauty of the lilies; He was born in a stable and laid in a feed trough. But Howe had no problem twisting Scripture to suit her purpose.

The second line of this stanza is equally trite and void of Biblical support. Nowhere does the Bible speak of a “glory in His bosom,” and since she has clearly identified the Army as Christ, somehow she believes that the military will change us. War does indeed change people, but it is never in a good way.

The first part of the third line belies her own theology as she did not believe that Jesus’ death saves us or sanctifies us. But, as we have seen, she did not hesitate to use words without concern for their meaning, as long as they would have the desired effect. I can only assume that she felt that throwing this reference to Christ’s atoning sacrifice would fool Christians to believe that the song was Christian. She succeeded, and continues to succeed, in fooling the vast majority of non-discerning Christians. The presence of this line is vital to the deception. In the eyes of many, reference to Our Lord’s atoning work “sanctifies” the whole song.

The call for us to “die to make men free” is obviously a call to die in battle in order to liberate the slaves and pays respect to John Brown. While this sentiment may have value in the world, it has no support from Scripture. “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”[xxvi]


The lyrics of the song are exactly what could be expected from a heretic and unbeliever. It promotes another gospel – the gospel of bloodshed, hatred and fratricide. Yet Christians, churches and their leaders promote this heresy in their churches.

“Oh, it is just a nice song and does not change our faith” I hear some say. That is exactly the deception. It does, and has, changed what many modern Christians (especially in America) believe. It is songs like this, and the theology behind it, that has resulted in a certain militancy amongst Christians. As a result many believe that they can, and must, promote their values by any means. “The end justifies the means and as long as we stand for truth, we can use any means to promote that truth.” No, the method is just as important as the truth. Illegitimate means to achieve a “good” end does not sanctify the means. It remains sin, and God will never bless anything that is sin or contrary to His Word!

My prayer is not only that this article will help towards the banishing of this song from true churches, but that it will also awaken Christians to carefully examine the theology of those national figures (of all nations) that we so easily worship and emulate.

“Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. "And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. "Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. "I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works” (Revelation 2:20-23)

i. Mrs. Howe was relatively insignificant before the Battle Hymn was published. She moved in influential circles, partly due to the socialite status her inheritance had brought her and partly due to her husband’s standing. However, the writing of the song made her an instant celebrity and one of the most famous women in 19th century America. By 1876 she was well established as a preacher, reformer, writer and poet, at a time when women were not generally accepted in these roles. Her main focus after the war was woman’s rights and she is credited as the creator of “Mother’s Day.” Some have dubbed her “the Queen of America.” (http://www.juliawardhowe.org/bio.htm)
ii. Florence Howe Hall, The Story of the Battle Hymn of the Republic (Harper, 1916), 52.
iii. Ibid., 47.
iv. Ibid., 48.
v. Julia Ward Howe, Reminiscences, 1819-1899 (Houghton, Mifflin and company, 1899), 273-274.
vi. Hall, The Story of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, 32-33.
vii. Howe, Reminiscences, 1819-1899, 270.
viii. The Transcendental Club was a group of New England “intellectuals” who “may be defined in a somewhat wider perspective as children of the Puritan past who, having been emancipated by Unitarianism from New England's original Calvinism, found a new religious expression in forms derived from romantic literature and from the philosophical idealism of Germany” (Perry Miller, "The American Transcendentalists," http://www.westminster.edu/staff/brennie/wisdoms/transcen.htm). In plain English, while the Unitarians had rejected all the fundamentals of orthodox Christianity, this group went even further and sought for truth in places other than the Scriptures.
ix. Emerson started as a Unitarian but later rejected Unitarianism and was rejected by them as a heretic, not because he had moved towards Truth, but because he had moved even further from Truth than the Unitarians were prepared to do. Basically, Emerson was a pantheist, meaning that he did not believe in a personal God, but that god is present in all of nature and, as such, man was basically god. In spite of this, he is still regarded as one of the greatest American minds and his writings are prescribed reading in most American schools. The following blog gives a good brief overview of some of Emerson’s views: http://protheism.blogspot.com/2006/01/ralph-waldo-emersona-celebrated.html
x. Ephraim Emerton, Unitarian Thought (Macmillan, 1911), 148.
xi. James Freeman Clarke, Vexed Questions in Theology: A Series of Essays (G. H. Ellis, 1886), 90-111.
xii. Emerton, Unitarian Thought, 50ff.
xiii. Ibid., 40.
xiv. Ibid., 54.
xv. Clarke, Vexed Questions in Theology, 14, 149.
xvi. Ibid., 42, 63.
xvii. Ibid., 145.
xviii. Hall, The Story of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, 49. Quoting Julia Ward Howe, Recollections of the Anti-Slavery Struggle.
xvix. Clarke, Vexed Questions in Theology, 165-166.
xx. Ibid., 167.
xxi. “Rev. William W. Patton,” http://www.preteristarchive.com/StudyArchive/p/patton-william.html.
xxii. Hall, The Story of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, 42.
xxiii. Ibid., 55.
xxiv. This prophecy refers to Satan “bruising” Jesus at the cross, but Jesus will “crush his head” – defeat Satan at the cross (Colossians 2:15).
xxv. 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
xxvi. Ephesians 6:12

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pragmatic Peter

This is Where Pure Pragmatism Will Take You

By Dr. Orrel Steinkamp*

“So the goal that God has now placed on the agenda of the Body of Christ in the last few years, much more than we can find in the past, is, the goal is transforming our society. Seeing the values of the kingdom of God, that’s why Jesus taught us to pray… the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven’…. And part of that prayer is, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’…. It’s not just words we’re speaking. ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ So transforming our society, understanding the kingdom, and transforming our society is, number one."
- C. Peter Wagner[1]

C. Peter Wagner, the current presiding elder of the International Coalition of Apostles and leading Dominionist activist has traveled a great distance from the days when he was teaching missiology at Fuller Seminary and making waves at Billy Graham's International Church Conference in Lausanne. Over these past few years he is now found promoting some of the most bizarre Dominionist teachings known to man. What could cause him to move so quickly from Church Growth missiology to endorsing, for example, Robert Heidler's communications with the planets by way of Jewish shofars?[2]

There is a simple answer. It is that pure pragmatism is the basis of his truth. Wagner announced this world view long ago. He states:

"...We ought to see clearly that the end justifies the means. What else could justify the means? If the method I am using accomplishes the goal I am aiming at. It is for that reason a good method. If on the other hand my method is not accomplishing the goal, how can I be justified in continuing to use it."

Wagner's long winding road was fueled by his total dependence on pragmatism as a world view. Well do I remember in the '70s as a missionary in Vietnam the force of Donald McGavran's church growth and contextualization teaching. We should have known better but we accepted it totally. If we could find a way to make converts of whole people groups why slug it out from one convert to another isolating these converts to the wider culture?

It was McGavran, who was Wagner's "mentor" at Fuller, who first wrote about church growth principles. He was the founding Dean of Fuller Theological Seminary's School of World Mission in 1965 in Pasadena. He had served as a missionary in India 1923-1957. McGavran promoted "people movement" evangelism, and this was the essence of his church growth teaching. He promoted sociological factors to accomplish church growth. "A change of religion involves a community change."[4] The primary focus became not to save individuals but for people groups to make a group decision. In all of this we can see some seeds that may have led pragmatic G. Peter to move toward cultural change and Dominion teaching.

Pragmatism is addicting when it appears to not only work, but to work fast. For Wagner, church growth principles appeared to work and work fast. Pragmatism demands that theology and biblical interpretation be adapted and tweaked to undergird the push for pragmatic results. Biblical theology must then become the handmaiden of what appears to work best. This is just the case for Wagner. He has been willing to align his handling of biblical texts and even theological stances to what he perceives to work. He has been willing for example to allow Bill Hamon, perhaps the only living inheritor of Latter Rain eschatology, to set the agenda for a new eschatology of Apostolic Dominion.

If "open theism" will pragmatically advance Wagner's Latter Rain dominion eschatology then he is more than willing to just embrace it.[5] Wagner adopted the Word Faith teaching about Adam forfeiting God's dominion in the garden so that the church's mission becomes that of reclaiming dominion for God. If this teaching will energize Dominionists in the drive for Dominionism then Wagner appears ready to utilize the most crass eisegesis and misinterpretation of the Bible. Wagner is willing to co-opt "the cultural mandate" of Reconstruction theology because it will buttress his pragmatic promotion of Dominion teaching. All this can be found in Wagner's book Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World.[6]

An illustration of this flight from responsible biblical interpretation is found in Wagner's 15 minute teaching of "Dominionism" at a key event called "The 2008 Starting of the Year Right," sponsored by Chuck Pierce. Here Wagner refers to Luke 19:10, and asserts that when Luke writes "the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost " it actually refers to God's dominion which was lost by Adam in the garden. He claims that it is dominion that was lost in the garden. He then goes on to refer to a sermon by Dutch Sheets in which Sheets taught there is a "contrast between pastoral ministry and apostolic ministry." Wagner admits this verse could refer to Jesus' death on the cross so that we could to heaven. But his new apostolic ministry "takes this verse to refer to the dominion Adam lost in the garden." Wagner asserts this, no matter how strange it seems, and expects his listeners to agree with him. This is an example of ripping a verse out of context and twisting it to mean something that isn't even exegetically a possibility. In context this "seeking of that which was lost" can only refer to the salvation that came to the house of Zacchaeus.

Wagner's sell-out to abject pragmatic considerations causes him to become an embarrassment to even novice biblical interpreters.

The Truth:

To understand more of how these teachings have come into the church via a false gospel of pragmatism, see the latest Discernment Newsletter article just posted online, titled "What Is Dominionism?"[7]

"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:" (Galatians 1:6)

C. Peter Wagner, “Arise Prophetic Conference,” Gateway Church, San Jose, CA, 10-10-2004, transcript posted at http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/arise.html.
2. "The 2008 Starting of the Year Right" NAR conference.
3. C. Peter Wagner, Your Church Can Grow, 1976, pg. 137.
4. Perspectives Reader, p. B-137-140. See Herescope post: http://www.herescope.blogspot.com/2007/07/secret-mission.html
5. See Wagner, Dominionism, p. 80.
6. Published by Chosen Books, Grand Rapids MI, 2008.
7. http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NovemberDecember2010.pdf

* Dr. Orrel Steinkamp's Plumbline newsletters are posted on the website Deception in the Church. To view his most recent newsletter, see: http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/orrel43.pdf

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Doing the Templeton Twist

Part 2: Dancing With the Stars

By Sarah Leslie and Pastor Larry DeBruyn

Maybe one of the attributes of God is change. Did He decree the survival of the fittest? Maybe God intends us in some way to use the new power He has put into our hands in relation to selective breeding and recombinant DNA, to improve the human race.
-John Marks Templeton[1]

In "Dancing With the Stars," Part 1, we reported on a symposium called “The Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science: Empowering the Church to Transform the Culture,” which was billed as “How Science Supports Christianity and Christianity Supports Science.” The history behind this event indicates that the merger of evangelical faith with science has been ongoing for decades, the recent symposium representing but the tip of a massive iceberg, As such, full reporting on the history and interconnections of the merger of faith and science lies beyond the scope of this blog.[2] However, several key points merit immediate scrutiny and, perhaps, further consideration and research.

Follow the Money Trail$$$$$

Numbers of links exist between the "Vibrant Dance" symposium's co-sponsoring organizations and the Templeton Foundation. Most, if not all, of these groups have in some way or another benefited by funding from this foundation. The controversial Discovery Institute, one of the symposium's co-sponsors and a chief purveyor of the Intelligent Design worldview, was at one time chiefly funded by Templeton.[3] The BioLogos Foundation also benefited from “a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.”[4] Both Calvin College and Regent College have received numerous grants from the same foundation.[5] Chuck Colson’s Center for Christian Worldview received a foundation grant for “Doing the Right Thing,” an “ethics” course,[6] as well as many other grants.[7] (In 1993 Colson received the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.[8]) Other links exist between Templeton Foundation personnel and these co-sponsoring organizations.[9]

These "Vibrant Dance" symposium's co-sponsoring organizations are connected with the co-sponsor known as the ASA, The American Scientific Affiliation, an organization with longstanding ties to John Marks Templeton. Started in 1941 for the purpose of integrating science and religion, the ASA remained a somewhat obscure evangelical group for decades.[10] As early as 1978, the ASA reported favorably on the Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion, and said its purpose was “to highlight original and fruitful spiritual projects; to act as a catalyst in the quest for deeper understanding and pioneering breakthroughs in religious knowledge.” Significantly, the Affiliation's newsletter announced that the award that year went to a professor who was described as a “pioneering influence in the new field of ‘theology of science.’”[11] The persistence of ASA can be accounted for by reason of the unceasing labors of Dr. Ralph Winter of Fuller Theological Seminary, who was possessed of a passionate interest for merging science and faith.[12] During the 1990s, the ASA became funded and dominated by one of its longtime members, John Marks Templeton.[13] Based on this group’s newsletters for decades, it is apparent that affiliated scholars, theologians and scientists were very interested in this “new field of ‘theology of science.’” They hoped to push the boundaries to expand the definitions of what constituted “science,” and as a corollary, what defined “truth.”

John Marks Templeton's Quantum Quest

In understanding the current movement to merge science and faith, the role of John Marks Templeton cannot be underestimated. By pioneering the use of globally diversified mutual funds, Sir Templeton became a billionaire[14] who philanthropically employed his financial empire to fund his “passionate interest in ‘progress in religion’ and ‘research or discoveries’ on the nebulous borders of science and religion.”[15] When he died in 2008, one obituary explained his life’s quest:

In a career that spanned seven decades, Templeton dazzled Wall Street, organized some of the most successful mutual funds of his time, led investors into foreign markets, established charities that now give away $70 million a year, wrote books on finance and spirituality and promoted a search for answers to what he called the "Big Questions" in the realms of science, faith, God and the purpose of humanity.[16]

Interestingly, though “Templeton maintained a long association with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)” and “served as a trustee on the board of Princeton Theological Seminary,”[17] his religious beliefs were diverse; so much so, that in 1972 his foundation “began awarding the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities.”[18] Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims were invited to serve on the panel of judges that awarded prizes. As noted:

[H]is annual Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion grew out of the philanthropist's belief that honors equivalent to Nobel Prizes should be bestowed on living innovators in religious action and thought. Mother Teresa of Calcutta received the first prize in 1973. Other winners include evangelist Billy Graham, author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and theoretical physicist Paul Davies, one of several scientists so honored. Hindus, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims have been on the panel of judges and have been recipients.[19]

In accord with the makeup of the panel of judges, it can be noted that Hindus, Jews and Muslims also became recipients of prizes.

In 1987, Templeton set up the John Templeton Foundation and “contributed a sizable amount of his fortune to it.”[20] The Foundation became well known for funding research into the origin of life, evolution, cosmology and physics. Templeton was also involved in the Unity School of Christianity, “a religious movement within the wider New Thought movement.”[21] New Thought is best known for its “metaphysical beliefs concerning the effects of positive thinking, the law of attraction, healing, life force, creative visualization, and personal power.”[22] One obituary described how Unity influenced Templeton’s ideas about the cosmos:

Although he was a Presbyterian elder active in his denomination and served on the board of the American Bible Society, Templeton espoused what he called a "humble approach" to theology. Declaring that relatively little is known about God through scripture and present-day theology, he once predicted that "scientific revelations may be a gold mine for revitalizing religion in the 21st century."

Templeton took a broad view of spirituality and ethics. He was influenced by the Unity School of Christianity, a movement that espouses a non-literal view of heaven and hell and a shared divinity between God and humanity. As he wrote, "We realize that our own divinity arises from something more than merely being 'God's children' or being 'made in his image.'"

In John Templeton’s popular book The Humble Approach: Scientists Discover God, he identified the Unity School of Christianity as a source for his doctrine on the divinity of man and the evolution of revelation. He admitted:

The profound mutual indwelling between man and God may be better stated by the Unity School of Christianity, “God is all of me: and I am a little part of him.” Such a notion implies an interdependent relationship between God and us. And even “a little part of him,” we realize the mutual unity of God and his creation. We realize that our own divinity arises from something more profound than merely being “God’s children” or being “made in his image.”[24]

From his own writing, the following quotes evidence Templeton's metaphysical beliefs:

And God is revealing Himself more and more to human inquiry, not always through prophetic visions or scriptures, but through the diligent research of modern scientists into observable phenomena and forces. The “golden age” of creation is being reached as God reveals Himself to human minds.[25]

God is five billion people on Earth and He is much more…. God is all of you and you are a little part of Him.[26]

Differing concepts of god have developed in different cultures. No one should say that God can be reached by only one path.[27]

Scriptures have been very beneficial to the whole world, but I am hoping we can develop a body of knowledge about God that doesn’t rely on ancient revelations or scripture.[28]

Humility of Heresy

Like many evangelical leaders, John Marks Templeton also talked about “the possibility of a great new reformation”[29] where men could “develop a vastly larger cosmology and a wider, deeper theology.”[30] He anticipated a “new renaissance” where “research into the laws of the spirit should be taken” by trained scientists and theologians.[31] To accomplish this, Templeton urged the readers of his book, The Humble Approach, to “humbly… admit that we know only a very little of God’s truth,”[32] be “open-minded” to “heretics,”[33] and accept “strange new ideas.”[34] These “strange new ideas” included ongoing “research in modern physics and cosmology and the new understanding of evolution in terms of the self-organization of the cosmos.”[35] Throughout his book, Templeton implied that theologians must become more “humble” so that they could accept heresy, particularly that evoked by evolutionary science. But he wasn't talking about scientific evolution. He was referring to the mystical evolution articulated by the French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. In laudatory terms Templeton explained how “Teilhard believed we now possess a higher, more organic understanding of the cosmos which could serve as a basis for a new, unprecedented religion.”[36]

The Emergent Merging of Spirituality, Science and Mysticism

Sir John Templeton served on the Council for a Parliament of World Religions, a group which “promotes inter-religious dialogue and plans for the world's 'spiritual future by having government institutionalize a global ethic.'”[37] This organization held its first meeting over a century ago in 1893, and launched the world’s first major effort to unify all of the world’s religions. Templeton also funded the Metanexus Institute, an organization that crosses over the divide between New Age and postmodern evangelicals (metanexus means the above connection):

"When the Metanexus Institute on Science and Religion solicited research proposals for studying 'spiritual transformation,' its officials didn't expect to be inundated with 500 applications.... Scientists proposed examining changes in the brain during prayer and the effect a religious CEO can have on corporate culture....

"Metanexus, a scholarly organization funded by the John Templeton Foundation,will award 20 grants of between $75,000 and $150,000 to specialists to study the process of spiritual transformation in a variety of contexts.... Spiritual transformation is a dramatic change in world and self views, purposes, religious beliefs, attitudes and behavior... ‘Traditionally, transformation happens because of suffering, love and beauty,'...

"The gulf between science and religion remained until about 25 years ago. Since then, significant research has included studies described in The Transformed Self: The Psychology of Religious Conversion, a 1989 book by Chana Ullman. Ullman compares 'conversion processes' across different religious groups.”

The Metanexus Institute was founded to be an organization completely compatible with Templeton’s ideal to bridge this “gulf between science and religion.” The organization's history is explained by Dr. Solomon Katz, past president of Metanexus:

The John Templeton Foundation first funded the Metanexus Institute to develop and conduct a program of scientific research focused on spiritual transformation (STP). In July 2001, at the formal beginnings of the Metanexus Institute, we accepted the challenge of extending the already developed constructive dialogue between religion and science into a newly emergent field, hypothesis-driven, empirical research at a transdisciplinary scientific level focused on spiritual transformation.[39]

The Metanexus Institute is widely listed in New Age directories across the planet.[40] It is easily connected with the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS),[41] which was founded by New Age leader Willis Harman.[42] Templeton and the IONS have numerous interconnections.[43] The Templeton-funded Metanexus Institute is also connected to What Is Enlightenment? magazine (WIE),[44] (now called EnlightenNext magazine) a radical New Age publication headed by guru Andrew Cohen[45] that bills itself as “the magazine for evolutionaries.”[46] WIE is frequently at the cutting edge of promoting the New Spirituality, often under the guise of appearing to be scientific or technical.[47] Most of EnlightenNext’s articles cover topics like meditation, mysticism, evolution, the New Spirituality and the future.[48]

The Metanexus Institute publishes the journal called The Global Spiral which frequently talks about New Age topics.[49] Currently one can see on the The Global Spiral main webpage a link to an article about Andy Crouch, who moderated the "Vibrant Dance" symposium.[50]

The Metanexus Institute appears to be a well-funded hub for the new “quantum spirituality” movement. The Metaxexus Institute’s webpage listing of all of their "Global Network" groups and organizations indicates the substantial scale of this movement.[51] The Metanexus Institute also stretches deep into the mainstream evangelical world, particularly through some of its outreaches. This becomes a very important fact when one considers the scope of involvement between Metanexus and Templeton. For example, one TARP grant (Templeton Advanced Research Program) is "Imitation, Mimetic Theory, and Religious and Cultural Evolution," a study for the purpose of "transforming human relationships and culture through infinitely more imaginative and non-violent ways of relating."[52] It is described as:

Sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation, the Metanexus Institute, and the Travis Research Institute of Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, this two year project brings together some of the world’s most prominent scientists, philosophers, and religious scholars in an attempt to explore current theories of human imitation and their converging implications for contemporary psychosocial, religious, and scientific thought....[53]

The amount of research required to track down all of the organizational and personnel interconnections is mind-boggling. The funding of academic projects for religion, spirituality, science and cultural evolution is extensive.[54]

Finally and disheartenly, the point at which all of this connects with evangelicalism is through an organization known as ACT (Academy for Christian Thought), which includes prominent churches such as Redeemer Presbyterian Church pastored by the well known Tim Keller. Metanexus Institute is listed as one of the sponsors of ACT.[55] ACT is described as,

an educational non-profit organization based in New York City. Our goal is to engage the urgent issues of our times and persistent questions of all ages. We encourage interdisciplinary engagement with every field of human inquiry to better understand the impact of history, philosophy, culture and the natural sciences on the Christian faith.[56]

And sure enough, the Academy for Christian Thought (ACT) is listed right at the top of the Metanexus list of "Global Network Group."[57] ACT describes its mission as "providing a theological safe space," a curious statement which raises more questions than it answers. Its agenda of "missional" blends right into the emerging rhetoric of Dominionism, as one of the stated goals of providing this "theological safe space" is to "interact with every cultural sphere of influence and human inquiry."[58] They explain their approach:

We do this by examining how the sciences, history, the arts, philosophy and ethics (SHAPE) have influenced our interpretation of the biblical texts as we engage the world of commerce, academia, media, politics and sports (CAMPS) and formulate a worldview by thinking things through, theologically. [59]


When money talks . . . everybody listens. Money also corrupts, and absolute money corrupts absolutely. From a cursory overview of the megalithic Templeton funding machine and its fundamentalist ($$) recipients, it has become evident that evangelical academia has become extensively corrupted by reason of the network and interconnections which the money grants created. The extent of this liberal leavening is so widespread that evangelical “orthodoxy” now feels quite comfortable in merging itself with the rising New Age/New Spirituality. How clever a strategy it is to hold an academic symposium to articulate the synthesizing of spirituality with science, and then intersperse performances of “vibrant dance” to celebrate the merger that is “happening”!

This investigation barely scratches the surface of the network now undermining the faith of Bible believing Christians. This report is incomplete. Investigation must therefore be ongoing. But whatever its shortcomings, it seems important to bring this material forward now. It appears that this wedding between faith and science—a joining together that Templeton advocated—is incubating and birthing (if it has not already done so with many), a belief system totally at odds with the Holy God revealed in Scripture.

This dialectic dance between faith and science can only end in hugging heresy.

The Truth:

"For I am the LORD, I change not" (Malachi 3:6a)

1. John Marks Templeton, The Humble Approach: Scientists Discover God, (Philadelphia & London, Templeton Foundation Press, 1981, 1995), p. 52.
2. Indeed, it would take a book, or a series of books, to chronicle the subject material that will be presented in this brief blog post.
3. See, for example, the lengthy Wikipedia report detailing many of this group’s controversial activities and stands here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discovery_Institute
4. “About the BioLogos Foundation,” http://www.biologos.org/about. See also: http://www.templeton.org/what-we-fund/grants/the-language-of-god-biologos-website-and-workshop
5. See these colleges mentioned as part of a $2 million grant, “Science for Ministry Initiative,” http://www.templeton.org/templeton_report/20091007/ and also http://www.scienceforministry.org/ which includes funding the Trinity Forum (which Dallas Willard is connected with) to develop a curriculum. See also “Templeton funds values and virtues in China,” October 30, 2009, http://www.calvin.edu/news/2009-10/templeton-china/http://www.calvin.edu/nagel/events/. This was a $3.3 million for a project called “Values and Virtues.” For several decades the Templeton Foundation has funded worldview programs that attempt to change people's values (programs such as character education, global ethics, etc.) without the Gospel of Salvation. See also, for example: http://www.calvin.edu/~jks4/cv.pdf
6. “Doing the Right Thing: A Six-Part Exploration of Ethics,” http://www.colsoncenter.org/ethics
7. For example, the “Better Hour Context” was funded by the John Templeton Foundation, https://www.colsoncenter.org/commentaries/2551-a-better-hour
8. See the Wikipedia entry on Chuck Colson, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Colson. A description of the Prize can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templeton_Prize and evangelicals will recognize Billy Graham’s and Bill Bright’s name on the list of recipients. The prizes are awarded to an eclectic mix of philosophers and mystics, church leaders, theologian and physicists.
9. See, for a brief example, personnel at these links: “Board of Advisors,” http://www.templeton.org/who-we-are/our-team/board-of-advisors/all/M and http://www.templeton.org/who-we-are/our-team/board-of-advisors/dorothy-f-chappell
10. http://www.asa3.org/ASA/aboutASA.html
“’THEOLOGIAN OF SCIENCE’ WINS 1978 TEMPLETON PRIZE,” ASA Newsletter, (Apr/May 1978) http://www.asa3.org/asa/topics/NewsLetter70s/APRMAY78.html
12. Ralph Winter's involvement in the merger of faith and science was substantial and enduring, and in his position as a theological and mission leader he formulated new doctrines to match his evolutionary worldview. Winter was the subject of several Herescope posts that explained his metaphysical worldview. See, for example: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/07/cultural-mandate.html and http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/07/radical-contextualization.html and http://herescope.blogspot.com/2008/04/tinker-with-theology-tinker-with-man.html
13. See these ASA newsletters, for example: http://www.asa3.org/asa/topics/NewsLetter90s/AUGSEP92.html; www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/NewsLetter80s/APRMAY83.html; http://www.asa3.org/asa/topics/NewsLetter90s/FEBMAR91.html; http://www.asa3.org/asa/topics/NewsLetter90s/MAYJUN99.html; http://www.asa3.org/asa/topics/NewsLetter70s/APRMAY78.html
14. http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/07/08/america/obit.php, “John Templeton, investor and philanthropist,” Robert D. McFadden, International Herald Tribune (7/8/08), also posted on: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/08/world/americas/08iht-obit.4.14336594.html and http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/09/world/americas/09iht-obits.1.14358556.html
15. Ibid.
16. “Legendary philanthropist Sir John Templeton, founder of the Templeton Prize, dies aged 95,” Michael Ireland, ASSIST News Service (7/8/08), http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2008/s08070044.htm
17. Ibid.
18. Ibid.
19. “Pioneering investor Sir John Templeton, Winchester native, dies at 95,” Jennifer Peebles, accessed at The Tennessean on July 8, 2008, http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080708/NEWS01/80708010/1006
20. Ibid.
21. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unity_School_of_Christianity

22. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Thought
23. “Sir John Templeton, Religion and Science Philanthropist, Dies,” Katherine T. Phan, The Christian Post (7/9/08), http://www.christianpost.com/article/20080709/sir-john-templeton-religion-and-science-philanthropist-dies.htm
24. The Humble Approach, p. 22.
25. Ibid., p. 24.
26. Ibid, p. 38.
27. Ibid, p. 46.
28. Ibid, p. 137.
29. Ibid, p. 70.
30. Ibid.
31. Ibid, p. 119.
32. Ibid, p. 54.
33. Ibid, p. 51.
34. Ibid, p. 53.
35. Ibid, p. 133.
36. Ibid, p. 32.

37. "Science eager to study spiritual change," article cited in “The Templeton Foundation: Merging Religion and Mystical ‘Science,” by Berit Kjos, http://www.crossroad.to/Quotes/spirituality/templeton.htm
38. http://www.crossroad.to/Quotes/spirituality/templeton.htm Emphases in original, italics added.
39. Solomon Katz, "A Brief History of the Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program," http://www.metanexus.net/magazine/tabid/68/id/10609/Default.aspx
40. Just a few listings include: http://www.newparadigmjournal.com/NP_links.htm, http://thegreatstory.org/links.html and New Age leader Neale Donald Walsch's Humanity's Team: http://www.humanitysteamsa.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=44&Itemid=114.
41. Dr. Solomon Katz was part of a "Science of Spiritual Transformation" teleseminar, accessed at the Institute of Noetic Sciences: http://www.noetic.org/search/?q=Solomon+Katz See also http://noetic.org/directory/
42. See, for example: http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/007/global-mind-1.htm. Willis Harman had connections with evangelical leaders dating back to the late 1970s. Follow the links in these Herescope posts:
http://herescope.blogspot.com/2009/07/quantum-eschatology.html; http://herescope.blogspot.com/2005/09/leonard-sweet-willis-harman-spiritual.html; http://herescope.blogspot.com/2005/09/barbara-marx-hubbard-willis-harman-and.html; and http://herescope.blogspot.com/2005/10/evangelicals-club-of-rome.html
43. Simply type in a Google search of "Templeton" and "Institute of Noetic Sciences" to grasp the full scope of this statement.
44. http://www.metanexus.net/relatedorganizations.asp#. This webpage was originally accessed in 2008. Under the list of "Metanexus Global Network Group" on the right column, is a listing for: "EnlightenNext and What Is Enlightenment? Magazine; Cambridge & Lenox, Massachusetts; New York, New York; and London, England; Voices from the Edge." The Metanexus Institute officially denies that it is "New Age" on this page: http://www.metanexus.net/faq.asp
45. See this fascinating account of Andrew Cohen: John Horgan, "The Myth of the Totally Enlightened Guru," http://www.johnhorgan.org/the_myth_of_the_totally_enlightened_guru_15274.htm. Ironically, this author received Templeton monies, but wrote an article critical of the Templeton merger of faith and science. See "The Templeton Foundation: A Skeptic's Take," http://www.johnhorgan.org/the_templeton_foundation__a_skeptic_s_take_52371.htm
46. http://www.enlightennext.org/magazine/themes/ Page accessed in 2008. Main page is located: http://www.enlightennext.org/ and described as: “
EnlightenNext (formerly What Is Enlightenment?), the award-winning spiritual, cultural, and philosophical magazine bringing an evolutionary perspective to spirituality, politics, business, science, the arts, and the environment.”
47. See, for example, http://www.enlightennext.org/magazine/bios/george-ellis.asp, which is a profile of George Ellis who has longstanding connections with Templeton, including Templeton Press. He co-authored a book with Nancey Murphy of Fuller Theological Seminary (See http://www.iamplify.com/enlightennext/product_details/EnlightenNext/Nancey-Murphy---Intelligence-by-Design/product_id/6068). Also see:
“Teilhard and the Texture of the Evolutionary Cosmos,” by Kathleen Duffy posted at http://www.metanexus.net/magazine/tabid/68/id/9358/Default.aspx and http://www.metanexus.net/Magazine/Default.aspx?TabId=68&id=9358&SkinSrc=%5bG%5dSkins%2f_default%2fNo+Skin&ContainerSrc=%5bG%5dContainers%2f_default%2fNo+Container. Templeton Press, and its role in the merger of science and faith is extensive and beyond the scope of this brief article. However, to catch a brief peek at the Templeton Press and the publishing angle of all of this, see: http://templetonbookspark.com/category/author-qa/ and http://templetonbookspark.com/2009/06/23/keith-ward-interview-at-enlightennext/
48. Take a tour around this website and see for yourself: http://www.enlightennext.org/magazine/
49. http://www.metanexus.net/Magazine/Home/tabid/66/Default.aspx The Metanexus Institute main page is: http://www.metanexus.net/magazine/
50. Ibid.
52. See project description at http://www.mimetictheory.org/ and http://www.mimetictheory.org/about.html
53. Ibid.
54. See, for example, http://www.templetonadvancedresearchprogram.com/index.htm, http://www.spiritualtransformationresearch.org/news/PR_June1_release.html, http://www.human-nature.com/nibbs/02/katz.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritual_transformation, and http://www.spiritualcapitalresearchprogram.com/award_release.asp
55. "Board of Directors," http://biz31.inmotionhosting.com/~actmin5/content.php?navid=2&cid=28
56. "About ACT," http://biz31.inmotionhosting.com/~actmin5/content.php?navid=2&cid=2
57. http://www.metanexus.net/relatedorganizations.asp. Note also that the ASA is the second organization listed on the lefthand column.
58. http://biz31.inmotionhosting.com/~actmin5/content.php?navid=2&cid=2. Bold and link added. We are indebted to Lighting The Way Worldwide for bringing this issue to the surface on a post on November 14, 2010, http://lightingtheway.blogspot.com/2010/11/another-former-member-of-redeemer.html

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Dancing With the Stars

“The Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science,”
A Cosmic Two-Step

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn and Sarah Leslie

“Many of us who have a foot both in the world of media art and technology and in the world of inner contemplation are awed by the potential of advanced immersive technologies to facilitate deeply transformative experiences. And because these experiences can be rapidly delivered on a mass scale, transformed individuals would accelerate the shift toward a transformed world . . . instead of talking about mystical experiences, we can now deliver them on a mass scale.”
Kate McCallum, “Visions from the Techno-Mystic Edge”[1]

Billed as “How Science Supports Christianity and Christianity Supports Science,” on October 26-28, in Austin, Texas, Christianity Today co-sponsored a symposium called “The Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science: Empowering the Church to Transform the Culture.”[2] This gathering of evangelical luminaries underscores the concerns addressed in the previous 6-part series on Herescope, “FROM COSMOS, TO CHAOS, TO CONSCIOUSNESS.”[3]

Oddly, the symposium celebrated the merging of faith to science by interspersing performances by the Ad Deum [to God] Dancing Company, a dance group that expressed “worship through dance at various times throughout the symposium.”[4] Described in redemptive terms, the work of this dance troop was billed as follows: “God truly has a redemptive and reconciling plan for the arts and for artists to shine as a light in this world.”[5] The dance group Ad Deum seeks to provide “A visual fusion of faith and artistry, relevant and redemptive for our time.”[6] Given that the “Arts & Media” is one of the 7 mountains Dominionists seek to conquer to “redeem the culture,” and that the symposium’s focus was upon the integration of faith and science,[7] the question arises: What connection does dance have with the faith-science merger? We wonder . . . why include the visual and performing arts in a symposium dealing with merging faith and science? The combination seems peculiar.

Was dance simply “an attraction” for what otherwise possessed the potential (considering the subject matter) to be another boring academic symposium? Or, was dance being employed in order to visualize what many perceive to be a growing connection between the cosmos and the human consciousness of it? Was “dancing to God” meant to celebrate “a romance” that is taking place between faith and science, between physics and metaphysics, between visible and invisible, with the dancers serving as priests and priestesses of the emerging new religion? Does dance function like a sacrament helping people visualize and experience synchronicity (i.e. spiritual oneness) with the vibrations inherent in the universe in both its gargantuan and quantum dimensions? The more these questions were considered, the more the answers became unsettling, especially as the symposium was titled, “The Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science.”

The symposium stated that it would be an “informed, non-confrontational discourse.”[8] But it is apparent that there would be no room for biblical creationism. Rather, the symposium focused on the “Intelligent Design” model of reality, which, in its conflict with the early chapters of Genesis, forces an evolutionary dialectic upon the biblical worldview. Serving to obliterate the distinction between the Creator and His creation, the evolutionary synthesis between faith and science becomes the touchstone of the newly evolving cosmic spirituality. Corrupting the early chapters of Genesis—especially regarding the Fall of man into sin—evolutionary theory becomes a necessary component of Dominionist doctrine which postulates that within human potential there exists a capacity to build the kingdom of God on earth, thereby redeeming creation and restoring Paradise.

In addition to Christianity Today, there was an all-star lineup co-sponsoring this event — such diverse organizations as Neue magazine, Regent College, Calvin College, Reasons to Believe, the Discovery Institute, The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, The BioLogos Foundation, The American Scientific Affiliation, and Hill Country Institute for Contemporary Christianity.[9] Speakers included what seems to have been a diverse group of theologians, commentators and scientists: Andy Crouch, Ross Hastings, Dan Heinze, Hugh Ross, Fazale Rana, Darrel Falk, Bruce Gordon, Stephen Meyer, Deborah Haarsma, Jack Collins, Walter Bradley, Rob Norris, Rob Norris, Jeff Zweerink, Paul Nelson, Bill Dembski, Randy Isaac, Doug Axe, Gregg Davidson, Ken Wolgemuth, Rob Koons, Dennis Venema, Richard Sternberg, Dinesh D’Souza, Walter Kaiser, Tremper Longman, John Walton, Walter Bradley, and Alister McGrath.[10] From the program listing it is clear that the that speakers were addressing things like “An Evolutionary Creationists Perspective on the Universe,” “DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design,” “Creation Care,” “Spiritual Formation,” etc.[11]

The “Mission” of the Vibrant Dance symposium was stated in terms of the "growing congruence of scientific discovery with our Christian faith."[12] While the symposium ostensibly claimed to hold to orthodoxy[13], it embraced the “all truth is God’s truth” synthesis:

The historic and oft used “two books” analogy of God’s revelation is helpful here; the “book” of nature and the “book” of the Bible. Since both “books” are from the Triune God, the information revealed in these “two books” will enhance our understanding of both, and ultimately will be acknowledged as consistent, though they may seem partially incongruent at times because of human limitations and misconceptions.[14]

To further underscore the unusual nature of this dance-themed event, and despite the trappings of scholarship surrounding it, there is a link to a prior event called “Transforming Culture: A Vision for the Church and The Arts” which was held on April 1-3, 2008. This prior conference, which featured Andy Crouch and Eugene Peterson (author of the controversial Bible paraphrase The Message)[15], was about “art and the mission of the Church in the renewal culture” and “experimenting with new forms of gospel-communication: through film and dance, banners and sculpture, ambient music and architectural design.”[16] Using the “senses, our imaginations and emotions as well as the arts,” the intent was explained as envisioning:

3. A Church which transforms the culture by way of a redemptive artistry; a Church that sends her artists into the culture to become the incarnational presence of Christ, a presence quietly hidden or powerfully public, holistic, prophetic, winsome or graciously subversive; a Church which releases her artists to create works which expose all the ugliness of sin and entice the human creature into the beauty of God.[17]

Our desire here is to help pastors understand the different means and unique ways in which art can reshape our culture. [18]

Using the arts to re-shape culture? Indeed, the pan-evangelical culture is rapidly adopting artistic mediums as a means by which to affect cultural transformation. The arts are not the spoken Word, the presentation of the Gospel of Salvation via the Scriptures. Rather, the transformation is one that it is thought can be effected by images, icons, shapes, stories, drama, physical spaces, music, drumming, and dancing. The premise behind these endeavors is based on the faulty theology that entire cultures (including individuals) need a “transformative” type of redemption, rather than salvation that is based upon the Gospel, upon “the preaching the cross” and “Christ crucified” (See 1 Corinthians 1:17, 18, 23), and upon the “foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God” (Hebrews 6:1b, emphasis added). The Dominionist cause of redeeming cultures does not rely upon the “two-edged sword” of the Word of God that can pierce “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow,” and in its effect is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Instead the cultural mandate relies upon the machinations of men — excessive time-and-energy-consuming activities that have “no profit” (Jeremiah 2:11; 2 Timothy 2:14) in saving the lost.

"Vibrating" into Consciousness

The redemption of the earth ethos requires a New Spirituality, and the arts become a vehicle to facilitate a transformation into this consciousness. As Pastor Larry explained a few years ago in his booklet Drumming Up Deception—Whether in celebration or contemplation—"feeling" the beat!:

But at some point after the 1960s, the "Good Vibrations" of the Beach Boys became the "god-vibrations" of New Age religion. Though there are various tenets of the New Spirituality of the New Age, one pantheistic assumption views energy to be divinity. Such pantheism holds that everything derives from a single energy "Source." Star Wars fans understand this New Age divinity to be "The Force." As a New Age believer states, “Modern science has proven what the Eastern mystics knew all along that everything is energy at varying rates of vibration.”[19] Note this religious concept: at the heart of the pantheistic worldview is a belief that the essence of the universe is vibrating energy, a sacred animation that is to be worshipped. This pulse exhibits itself in everything from a beating human heart to electrons bouncing off of atoms.

Because the new spiritualists suppose energy to be divinity, a spiritual goal of theirs becomes that of feeling synchronized with the vibrations, or cadence, of the cosmos. One advocate of the New Spirituality suggests that, “On a practical, mundane level, spirituality is an awareness and appreciation of the energy or life force which moves us—yes, spirit!”[20] Again, he says, “We can consciously become sensitive to our own energy fields, and we can manipulate this energy to increase our sense of pleasure and enhance our spirituality."[21]

The New Spirituality also employs creative artistic experiences to facilitate “transforming” the earth, and in that the symposium’s Internet address is vibrant dance.org, it suggests a covert connection. The beat goes on . . . ad infinitum.

The New Spirituality also views the arts in a cosmic sense, as a useful tool to “bring balance to the evolutionary forces,” to “create order out of chaos and change,” and to “unify cultures and philosophies.”[22] Are pan-evangelicals now using the arts as tools for the same purposes? Obviously, if they have bought into an evolutionary worldview (anything other than a literal biblical creation account, particularly any synthesis that permits an evolutionary perspective of Genesis 1-3), then it would make sense that they would look at the arts as a way to further global transformation (i.e., Dominion), even though they cloak their transformational intent in Christian-sounding terminologies.

The Techno-Mystic Medium

The New Agers do have a use for art. They now view it as a techno-mystical medium to affect transformation. They are using state of the art “neuroesthetics,” i.e., “a rapidly growing sub-discipline of neuroscience that seeks to explain and understand the impacts of music and art at the neurological level using tools such as neuroimaging and genetic analysis.”[23] In this context, they are examining how perception and cognition affect human “consciousness.”[24] Music, in particular, is seen as a particularly powerful medium because it affects our emotions and can “trigger inner shifts in perspective . . . [that can] bring about new understanding and awareness.”[25] One advocate of techno-mystical transformation explains:

Art and media that transform operate on multiple levels affecting one’s whole self—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. This often subjective and unexpected experience can be elicited in myriad ways: listening to music, watching a dance, feeling the sacredness of a physical space....[26]

Furthermore, the New Spiritualists have noticed that the “multiple sensory experiences” of the arts can have “'an enlivening effect on the brain'” shifting it to a “’unified wholeness, where unity both transcends and embraces sensory diversity.’”[27] In sum, the arts are seen as a vehicle to induce “transformative states of awareness, which can also be applied to group experiences.”[28]

Why use the arts? Because the arts have the potential to manipulate the cognitive and affective parts of the human brain, and that can facilitate the desired shift to a global consciousness—what the New Age-New Spiritualists explain as an evolutionary leap to a “cosmic” consciousness. As they explain:

In their earliest expression, the arts were closely aligned with spiritual truths—for example, when used in ritual or in dedication to gods and goddesses. Now more than ever, we have the opportunity to reclaim the sacred power of the arts and to bring more awareness to creative expression that could yield tremendous benefits for humanity…. Ancient perennial wisdom, which for so long had been available only in books or in verbal transmission by way of spiritual teachers, mystery schools, and secret societies, can now be beautifully disseminated to a broader audience through digital storytelling, filmmaking, music, and other arts; recorded on CDs, iPods, and DVDs; woven into our electronic games; and sent across the world via the Web. The gateways have opened wide.[29]

Many Christians don’t “get” why their pan-evangelical leaders are engaging in the arts to facilitate transformation. The answer seems obvious: “The spiritual condition of evangelicalism may be compared to ancient Israel. Bored believers are constantly seeking excitements to excite them, and in doing so, exchange spirituality for sensuality.”[30] All of this extra-biblical activity carries about it an intoxicating sensuality that becomes one means whereby the New Spirituality seeks a link to cosmic significance. As Pastor Larry has explained:

By their own exertion, and assisted by the mechanism of drumming, the new spiritualists attempt to experience the energy within them coalesce with the energy around them (i.e., within other persons, their immediate environment, and, ultimately, with the universe). If attained, this felt union with nature is considered to be an enlightened state of “at-one-ment,” in which the new spiritualists suppose themselves to be absorbed into God. Facilitated by drumming, this feeling of union with nature is the goal of mystical-religious experience.

But this contest between the nature spiritualities and the spirituality that comes from God is between opposite and contradictory systems of faith that literally are worlds apart. Should I believe in my senses, of what my blood feels, or in God’s revealed truth, in what comes from above, and in what stands written. This contest between man’s sensuality (i.e., human gnosis) and God’s revelation (i.e., the divine Logos) is currently being played out not only in our media oriented culture, but also in and among professing Christians and churches.

Ancient and pagan cultures employ sacraments as religious acts to bind their community together. These group acts were performance-based, ritualistic and manipulative, involving body contortions and maneuvers, and gesticulations that could be externally seen and connoted a spiritual purpose.[32] Sacraments are defined as follows:

The word "sacrament" connotes a religious act or gesture whereby a togetherness already existing on some secular level allegedly becomes a togetherness on the religious level. The function of sacrament is to bind together on the religious level that which is already bound on such other levels as tribal consanguinity, political homogeneity, national solidarity, and linguistic similarity. This is the meaning the word "sacrament" had in the pre-Christian world;...."[33]

By such an understanding the curious context of the Vibrant Dance symposium comes into sharper focus. In an as above, so below context, ritualistic dance attempts to connect the physical to the spiritual worlds, functioning as a “visual fusion of faith and artistry, relevant and redemptive for our time.”[34]

These types of activities do not promote biblical orthodoxy, but serve as alluring sacraments that engage the participants and voyeurs of it in a subtle form of nature worship that seeks to "redeem creation" as it also attempts to "transform culture."

The Truth:

"Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." (Romans 1:21-22)

"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." (Colossians 2:8)

To be continued. . . .

1. “Visions from the Techno-Mystical Edge,” Kate McCallum, Sept.-Nov, 2008, No. 20,
Art, Science and Consciousness, a publication of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), http://www.bridgeartsmedia.com/cms/images/stories/artscienceconsciousness.pdf
2. http://www.vibrantdance.org/ This organization also has a blog: http://vibrantdance.org/BlogRetrieve.aspx?BlogID=4404 We are indebted to Kim Treweek for her research assistance with this.
3. The 6-part series was posted here:
4. http://vibrantdance.org/symposium-1/program
5. “Welcome to the Web World of Ad Deum Dance Company,” http://www.danceaddeum.com/
6. http://www.danceaddeum.com/id48.html
7. Program, http://vibrantdance.org/symposium-1/program
8. “Vibrant Dance Overview,” http://www.vibrantdance.org/about/overview. The FAQ webpage (http://vibrantdance.org/about/faq )asks “Do we have guidelines of behavior and interaction at the symposia and on the website?” It answers: “Yes. In attending a Vibrant Dance of Faith & Science symposium or interacting online, you are agreeing that you will treat those you encounter in a spirit of collegiality and respect – irrespective of sincerely held differences. By being a part of these activities you are further agreeing that you will seek to promote collegiality, respect and community among symposium participants and attendees and within the online community.”
9. See the websites for these various co-sponsors to catch more of the significance of this event, for example: http://hillcountryinstitute.org/; http://www.reasons.org/; http://www.biologos.org/; http://www.neuemagazine.com/; http://www.asa3.org/; http://www.discovery.org/; http://www.bibleandscience.com/ .
10. List gleaned from: “Program,” http://vibrantdance.org/symposium-1/program; “Speakers,” http://vibrantdance.org/symposium-1/speakers and “Breakout Sessions,” http://vibrantdance.org/symposium-1/breakout-sessions
11. “Program,” http://vibrantdance.org/symposium-1/program
12. “Our Mission,” http://vibrantdance.org/about/mission
13. “Our Values,” which includes the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed, http://vibrantdance.org/about/values
14. “Background & Motivation: How Science Supports Christianity and Christianity Explains Science,” http://www.vibrantdance.org/symposium-1/background-motivation. Emphasis added.
15. http://www.transformingculture.org/speakers.html
16. The original link on the Vibrant Dance website to this conference is: http://vibrantdance.org/about/resources/past-events and that page has a link to: http://www.transformingculture.org/. The quoted materials is from: http://www.transformingculture.org/about.html
17. http://www.transformingculture.org/about.html [Emphasis in original]
18. http://www.transformingculture.org/thequestions.html
19. Donni Hakanson, “Enhancing Your Spirituality” (http://www.alternativeculture.com/spirit/enhance.htm), cited in Larry De Bruyn, Drumming Up Deception: Whether in celebration of in contemplation--"feeling" the beat! (2008): available for $2.00 from Discernment Ministries http://home.etcable.net/hestervanboven/Books.htm
20. Hakanson, “Enhancing Your Spirituality.” Cited in Drumming Up Deception.
21. Ibid. Cited in Drumming Up Deception.
22. “Visions from the Techno-Mystical Edge,” Kate McCallum, Sept.-Nov, 2008, No. 20, Art, Science and Consciousness, a publication of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), http://www.bridgeartsmedia.com/cms/images/stories/artscienceconsciousness.pdf Note that this article may help to explain the "new music" prophesied by the New Apostolic Reformation. In all likelihood it may be a techno-mystic hybrid, concocted to alter consciousness in the brain.
23. Ibid.
24. Ibid.
25. Ibid.
26. Ibid.
27. Ibid.
28. Ibid.
29. Ibid.
30. Drumming Up Deception.
31. Drumming Up Deception.
32. Concepts summarized from Leonard Verduin's The Anatomy of A Hybrid: A Study in Church-State Relationships (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1976), p. 21.
33. Ibid.
34. http://www.danceaddeum.com/id48.html